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The first results from a new GP payment system were launched today, and were hailed by government spin doctors as "the world's most comprehensive database" on tracking and managing common chronic diseases.

The "world's best database" claim is based on the way money is being allocated to doctors' surgeries. A practice can score points (which eventually translate to cash) according to how well it does against a range of indicators: for example, how many heart disease patients have also had flu jabs?

Because the information can effectively be traded for money - an average sized practice scoring around 90 per cent will get a cash boost of almost £75,000 - GPs have a big incentive to track the treatments offered and dispensed. The more services offered, the more points a practice can qualify for.

The plan is that over time, the government will be able to use this data to focus resources where they are most needed, targeting patients particularly at risk.

Health Minister Lord Warner said that in future the NHS will be able to map populations with debilitating conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. "As the database builds up it will allow us to focus resources and plan services appropriately to help us tackle health inequalities," he added. ®

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